Senators form new caucus to support rural broadband
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WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 - A bipartisan group of five U.S. senators has formed the Senate Broadband Caucus to focus on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country.
The senators - Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and John Boozman of Arkansas, Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Independent Angus King of Maine - say the caucus will “promote bipartisan discussions about possible solutions to increase connectivity and close the digital divide, especially in rural America, and engage with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders.”
“As internet access plays an increasingly important role in all sectors of our economy, from education to agriculture, telemedicine to the innovation economy, the Senate Broadband Caucus will serve as a platform to engage in discussions across committee jurisdictions and to inform senators and their staff about emerging broadband issues,” the lawmakers said in a release.
The senators said the economic benefits of broadband infrastructure are clear. For every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000 jobs, they said. Yet, according to the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report, one in 10 Americans lacks access to the Federal Communication Commission's definition of broadband. In rural America, 39 percent of Americans lack access, they said.
The lawmakers cited a recent study that found that after each megabit per second increase in internet speeds, the unemployment rate dropped, the rate of bachelor degrees earned increased, and the median household income increased. In rural areas, where broadband serves to bridge geographic barriers, these benefits are particularly important, they said.
“From online business startups to digital learning and telemedicine, broadband access is critical to the strength of our economy and our communities,” Capito said. “Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural and urban America is growing as essential broadband infrastructure falls behind in certain parts of the country.”
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